erwin Expert Blog

SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL: Evaluating Your Database Options

A common question in the modern data management space involves database technology: SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL?

But there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. What’s “right” must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on data maturity.

For example, a large bookstore chain with a big-data initiative would be stifled by a SQL database. The advantages that could be gained from analyzing social media data (for popular books, consumer buying habits) couldn’t be realized effectively through sequential analysis. There’s too much data involved in this approach, with too many threads to follow.

However, an independent bookstore isn’t necessarily bound to a big-data approach because it may not have a mature data strategy. It might not have ventured beyond digitizing customer records, and a SQL database is sufficient for that work.

Having said that, the “SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL” question is gaining prominence because businesses are becoming increasingly data-driven.

In 2019, an IDC study found 85% of enterprise decision-makers said they had a time frame of two years to make significant inroads into digital transformation or they will fall behind their competitors and suffer financially. Furthermore, a Progress study showed that 85% of enterprise decision-makers feel they only have two years to make significant digital-transformation progress before suffering financially and/or falling behind competitors.

Considering these statistics, what better time than now to evaluate your database technology? The “SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL question,” is especially important if you intend to become more data-driven.

SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL: Advantages and Disadvantages


SQL databases are tried and tested, proven to work on disks using interfaces with which businesses are already familiar.

As the longest-standing type of database, plenty of SQL options are available. This competitive market means you’ll likely find what you’re looking for at affordable prices.

Additionally, businesses in the earlier stages of data maturity are more likely to have a SQL database at work already, meaning no new investments need to be made.

However in the modern digital business context, SQL databases weren’t made to support the the three Vs of data. The volume is too high, the variety of sources is too vast, and the velocity (speed at which the data must be processed) is too great to be analyzed in sequence.

Furthermore, the foundational, legacy IT world they were purpose-built to serve has evolved. Now, corporate IT departments must be agile, and their databases must be agile and scalable to match.


Despite its name, “NoSQL” doesn’t mean the complete absence of the SQL database approach. Rather, it works as more of a hybrid. The term is a contraction of “not only SQL.”

So, in addition to the advantage of continuity that staying with SQL offers, NoSQL enjoys many of the benefits of SQL databases.

The key difference is that NoSQL databases were developed with modern IT in mind. They are scalable, agile and purpose-built to deal with disparate, high-volume data.

Hence, data is typically more readily available and can be changed, stored or handle the insertion of new data more easily.

For example, MongoDB, one of the key players in the NoSQL world, uses JavaScript Object Notation (JSON). As the company explains, “A JSON database returns query results that can be easily parsed, with little or no transformation.” The open, human- and machine-readable standard facilitates data interchange and can store records, “just as tables and rows store records in a relational database.”

Generally, NoSQL databases are better equipped to deal with other non-relational data too. As well as JSON, NoSQL supports log messages, XML and unstructured documents. This support avoids the lethargic “schema-on-write,” opting to “schema-on-read” instead.


NewSQL refers to databases based on the relational (SQL) database and SQL query language. In an attempt to solve some of the problems of SQL, the likes of VoltDB and others take a best-of-both-worlds approach, marrying the familiarity of SQL with the scalability and agile enablement of NoSQL.

However, as with most seemingly win-win opportunities, NewSQL isn’t without its caveats. These vary from vendor to vendor, but in essence, you either have to sacrifice familiarity side or scalability.

If you’d like to speak with someone at erwin about SQL, NoSQL or NewSQL in more detail, click here.

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Benefits of NoSQL Data Modeling

erwin Expert Blog

Data Modeling in a Jargon-filled World – NoSQL/NewSQL

In the first two posts of this series, we focused on the “volume” and “velocity” of Big Data, respectively.  In this post, we’ll cover “variety,” the third of Big Data’s “three Vs.” In particular, I plan to discuss NoSQL and NewSQL databases and their implications for data modeling.

As the volume and velocity of data available to organizations continues to rapidly increase, developers have chafed under the performance shackles of traditional relational databases and SQL.

An astonishing array of database solutions have arisen during the past decade to provide developers with higher performance solutions for various aspects of managing their application data. These have been collectively labeled as NoSQL databases.

Originally NoSQL meant that “no SQL” was required to interface with the database. In many cases, developers viewed this as a positive characteristic.

However, SQL is very useful for some tasks, with many organizations having rich SQL skillsets. Consequently, as more organizations demanded SQL as an option to complement some of the new NoSQL databases, the term NoSQL evolved to mean “not only SQL.” This way, SQL capabilities can be leveraged alongside other non-traditional characteristics.

Among the most popular of these new NoSQL options are document databases like MongoDB. MongoDB offers the flexibility to vary fields from document to document and change structure over time. Document databases typically store data in JSON-like documents, making it easy to map to objects in application code.

As the scale of NoSQL deployments in some organizations has rapidly grown, it has become increasingly important to have access to enterprise-grade tools to support modeling and management of NoSQL databases and to incorporate such databases into the broader enterprise data modeling and governance fold.

While document databases, key-value databases, graph databases and other types of NoSQL databases have added valuable options for developers to address various challenges posed by the “three Vs,” they did so largely by compromising consistency in favor of availability and speed, instead offering “eventual consistency.” Consequently, most NoSQL stores lack true ACID transactions, though there are exceptions, such as Aerospike and MarkLogic.

But some organizations are unwilling or unable to forgo consistency and transactional requirements, giving rise to a new class of modern relational database management systems (RDBMS) that aim to guarantee ACIDity while also providing the same level of scalability and performance offered by NoSQL databases.

NewSQL databases are typically designed to operate using a shared nothing architecture. VoltDB is one prominent example of this emerging class of ACID-compliant NewSQL RDBMS. The logical design for NewSQL database schemas is similar to traditional RDBMS schema design, and thus, they are well supported by popular enterprise-grade data modeling tools such as erwin DM.

Whatever mixture of databases your organization chooses to deploy for your OLTP requirements on premise and in the cloud – RDBMS, NoSQL and/or NewSQL – it’s as important as ever for data-driven organizations to be able to model their data and incorporate it into an overall architecture.

When it comes to organizations’ analytics requirements, including data that may be sourced from a wide range of NoSQL, NewSQL RDBMS and unstructured sources, leading organizations are adopting a variety of approaches, including a hybrid approach that many refer to as Managed Data Lakes.

Please join us next time for the fourth installment in our series: Data Modeling in a Jargon-filled World – Managed Data Lakes.